5 Things To Do Before You Die
Hello readers. This may appear to be a morbid and depressing post but bear with me. We really need to talk about 5 Things To Do Before You Die. We all need to do some basic Estate Planning.
Let’s face it, or not face it like so many others end up doing, we are all going to leave this Earth someday. Maybe not tomorrow or the next day, but some date in the future we will leave behind the people we love for whatever it is you believe happens to us. This conversation does not matter what you believe really (Christian or atheist), the facts remain the same – there are some very important things you need to do before you die.
Over the last ten years, several of my loved ones have departed, all leaving behind a legacy of love, memories, in some cases a great deal of sadness, and in almost all cases with plenty of things to deal with afterward. Take it from me, if you listen to no one else, doing some basic estate planning will go great distances in helping the loved ones you leave behind with some direction in dealing with the remainder of your affairs.
Below I am highlighting the 5 Things To Do Before You Die, and in those give examples or scenarios of how each will help your loved ones deal with the loss.
Make some decisions about how you want your healthcare to be managed if you become incapacitated and cannot speak for yourself. This includes artificially extending your life with ventilators, tube feedings, radical (and expensive) surgical procedures, etc.
This all hinges really on what you want your quality of life to be should you become extremely ill. For example, a loved one that I helped care for became unable to swallow effectively, which then made conventional eating a very risky task. The loved one decided to give tube feeding a try in an attempt to get well enough to return home. However, after the loss of one of life’s greatest pleasures – eating – he quickly decided that tube feeding would stop in favor of the joy of tasting food. Unfortunately, the poor swallowing eventually caused an aspiration which ultimately ended his life.
Think about the quality of life along with quantity. Make sure you get those decisions conveyed in writing so that everyone knows your wishes. In the example above, I could not have made that decision myself – either way really. I would not have been able to make the decision to place a feeding tube in a loved one to extend their life, however, conversely, I would not have been able to decide to remove it to ultimately speed up the process. Make those decisions so your loved ones don’t have to.
Power Of Attorney for Healthcare and Finance
This is actually two separate things but should be considered simultaneously.
Healthcare Power of Attorney
This very important position/person will be the person who will carry out your wishes above. Once those decisions about your healthcare are in writing, the Healthcare Power of Attorney will then be your spokesperson if you cannot.
Consider this: The Healthcare Power of Attorney should be someone who is kind, ethical, good moral character, someone you trust wholeheartedly, AND will not waiver from your wishes. It is a very difficult thing for some people to witness a loved one suffering, knowing that the end is coming. People can become frightened and have great difficulty making life or death decisions. All the more reason to be CERTAIN that your healthcare wishes are in writing and conveyed to your loved BEFORE you need someone to make those decisions that could end your life.
Financial Power of Attorney
The Financial Power of Attorney is a bit trickier, so make sure to get legal assistance with this one.
You want your financial affairs to be managed if you are not able. Investments, real estate, insurance, businesses, etc. all will need to be carried on for a period of time up to your death.
There is a lot to chance with a Financial Power of Attorney. A horror story example – I was very close to a situation with a loved one that named a Financial Power of Attorney during a period of time when the loved one was very distraught over the passing of a spouse. As it turned out, the Financial Power of Attorney did not have the loved one’s best interest at heart in some cases. Much of the cash assets of the loved one were removed from individual accounts in the loved one’s name and placed in the Financial Power of Attorney’s name. You can guess the rest of that story without me explaining it. The value was substantial.
We can all only hope that we are completely “with it” as we age. There is, however, a very good chance we will not be as we get into advanced years. Make sure that you name someone that will IN ALL situations do what is in your best interest – not their own. It could be a neighbor, attorney, or a pastor, and not a loved one at all.
If you have a large estate or a lot of cash it may be wise to speak to a Law Firm specializing in large estates to keep something like the above situation from happening.
Organization of your affairs is huge. This should actually be something you do regularly. It is also the area of biggest frustration for families or loved ones to deal with when you are gone. Searching through stacks of paper, looking for insurance contracts, calling vendors, etc.
Here is a helpful list of items you need to have organized:
- Life Insurance policies – make sure ALL your policies are in one place
- Bank Accounts – list out ALL your accounts. Checking, Savings, Money Markets, CDs
- Retirement Accounts – 401K, Pensions, IRAs, Annuities, etc.
- Review your beneficiaries regularly – death, divorce, etc. all change things. Plan appropriately
- Health Insurance Plans – All of them. It may help pay some of your bills
- Copies of your Living Will, Healthcare POA, Financial POA that we just discussed
- Prepaid Funeral contracts – We’ll talk more about this below
- Titles, Deeds, Business documents, and any other legal documents
- Tax documents – may be needed to file your last 1040. Sorry Uncle Sam still gets paid
These are the most important ones based on the times I have had to deal with a loved one’s affairs. If you are a business owner this gets exponentially more complex.
Most people avoid this one. Planning your funeral before you are actually gone is somewhat morbid let’s face it. However, consider this your last expression of love for those that are going to be left behind, grieving over your departure. The last thing you want to do is contribute to their anguish by making them decide what to do with you once you’re gone.
Funeral Homes do a great job these days in the Pre-planning of services. If that is just too much for you, at least get some wishes documented. There is nothing more frustrating than trying to decide when everyone is sad, what are we going to do with so and so.
An issue that is becoming more and more common – Extended families, where there are stepchildren and/or step-grandchildren. Biological children may want mom or dad buried in a particular location and the extended family may want something entirely different. Case in point: a loved one I helped take care of deceased with no guidance on burial and I am a stepchild. This loved one’s biological family wants one thing and we (my siblings) are thinking something else entirely.
Some basic guidance will help immensely even if you do not wish to plan your own funeral.
Last Will and Testament
So, you are no longer with us at this point. This is where it gets really messy if you haven’t planned well.
The Last Will and Testament is a legal document that directs your final wishes pertaining to possessions and dependents. The Last Will and Testament provide instruction for what to do with your possessions – leaving them to certain people or groups, donations, the sale of property, who will take custody of children if necessary, and a variety of other things.
Most importantly, The Last Will and Testament names an Executor that will manage or oversee the process. It is extremely important to name someone that will see to it that your last wishes are seen through. Speak to an attorney prior to naming one Executor and ABSOLUTELY speak to an attorney if you are considering naming more than one.
An example of what NOT to do. Naming more than one Executor is problem enough. That means that all parties can get along, play nice in the sandbox, and all live within reasonable proximity to one another. If anyone of those is in question, DO NOT name more than one Executor – the process will become exponentially more difficult and ultimately much more costly.
Not having a Last Will and Testament is BAD. If you die without a Last Will and Testament, you are considered “intestate”, which means your state of residence becomes the Executor of your estate. You do not want this to happen. Depending on state law where you live, your possessions will likely be distributed according to state law without consideration for any of your family’s wishes. If children are involved it could be an even worse scenario.
The Last Will and Testament does many things. Make sure you have this important piece of estate planning completely covered prior to your death. Once you are gone, what is in your Will is the final word – It cannot be taken back, revised, changed, or altered once you are gone. If something changed prior to your death and you forgot or didn’t change your Will – It’s too late once you are gone.
So, there you have it, folks – 5 Things to do Before You Die. Were you thinking this was going to be about 5 destinations to see before you die? Sorry – We’ll cover that in another post 🙂
My disclosure: I am not an attorney, estate planner, or financial planner, and none of the information included here should be considered “legal” or “estate planning” advice. I am simply putting together a list of things that I have seen numerous times as things that are most often used in “good” and “poor” planning prior to an illness and/or death.
Do your family a favor and make sure you plan for some point in the future. Make sure to seek legal advice for any of these topics. The laws are different in each state, so don’t take any chances.
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